Philadelphia Eagles: Progress Report Headed into Week 14

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 5, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 02:  Head coach Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles prepares to take on the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Another week, another dominant performance by the quarterback of the team facing the Philadelphia Eagles defense. Tony Romo had his best game of the season against Philadelphia's horrendous pass defense Sunday night, and now the Eagles have allowed opposing signal-callers to post a combined passer rating of 142.4 with 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions against them in the six weeks since Todd Bowles took over for Juan Castillo. 

Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News has more sordid details on a defense that hasn't registered a single takeaway in a month:

Their ineptness on third down in those six games has been unbelievable. Opponents have converted 51.4 percent of their third-down opportunities. Opposing quarterbacks have a – are you ready for this? – 152.4 third-down passer rating against the Eagles in those six games.

They've completed 75.6 percent of their third-down passes, have averaged 11.5 yards per attempt, have thrown six touchdown passes and no interceptions. In his two starts against the Eagles, Romo completed 14 of 18 third-down passes for 205 yards. He was 7 for 8 for 122 yards with seven first downs Sunday. That doesn't include a 15-yard third-down run for a first down.

So, if we're measuring defensive progress, there's been none. And at this point, with Castillo, Jim Washburn and Jason Babin gone and Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie likely in trouble, it's obvious the D will be going through a major rejig in the offseason.

We can only hope that they do the same thing with the rest of the team, including the coaching staff.


Four Key Questions to Monitor

Is Nick Foles able to lead the offense?

Foles took a huge step in the right direction in Sunday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys, completing two of his four 20-plus-yard pass attempts and hitting on eight of the 12 passes he threw while under pressure (according to Pro Football Focus). He was no longer detecting nonexistent pressure and was much less shaky despite the fact he had one of the best pass-rushers in the game coming after him.

Foles was 5-of-8 on third down and helped the Eagles have a successful night in the red zone, which is an area they've really struggled in this year. His numbers still don't compare favorably to Michael Vick's, but Vick is a 10-year veteran with high expectations, while Foles is a rookie third-round pick.

That Foles was able to post a 96.6 passer rating and avoid turning the ball over in only his third career start, and without DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and 60 percent of his offensive line, is an indication that he might have a chance to become a franchise quarterback. But we'll need to see more of that before drawing any major conclusions. 

Current answer: The final four weeks will tell.


Can Brandon Graham be relied upon to replace Jason Babin and emerge as the team's next great pass-rusher?

Brandon Graham is officially becoming a star. In his first start in place of the released Jason Babin, the third-year defensive end had quite possibly the best game of his career against Dallas, registering two sacks and six pressures (per PFF). 

What's more, he also continued to perform well in run defense, proving that he has the versatility to be a much more valuable contributor than the one-trick pony Babin ever was. 

PFF now rates Graham as the league's second-best 4-3 defensive end. And among players at that position who have taken more than three snaps this season, he's had more pressure per snap than anyone else.

Current answer: Yes.


What do they have in Curtis Marsh and Brandon Boykin?

Marsh continues to sit on the bench for the most part, although he did get a slot snap against Cole Beasley Sunday, and it didn't go well. He gave up a 13-yard completion on the play. The Eagles don't appear to have much faith in him as a long-term option at cornerback, so I suppose I shouldn't either. 

As far as Boykin goes, he gave up only a single 19-yard completion to Miles Austin in Week 13, but wasn't tested outside of that. I suppose it's a good sign that teams aren't able to/trying to pick on the rookie fourth-round pick, but it's still tough to get a read on his potential. 

Current answer: Obviously, they aren't willing to give Marsh a shot, but Boykin is holding it down as a rookie nickel corner.


Can Dennis Kelly start at offensive tackle?

The rookie fifth-round pick did a great job teamed with Jake Scott on the right side of the line, especially at paving the way for Bryce Brown in another great performance on the ground. He did give up a pair of hurries, according to Pro Football Focus, but it was a decent performance overall against Dallas. 

Kelly hasn't dazzled, but considering the expectations as well as what he has surrounding him, there's a strong indication that he's good enough to become a quality swing tackle behind Jason Peters and Todd Herremans in 2013 and beyond.

Current answer: At the very least, he'll be a quality depth guy in 2013.


Week 13 Stock Report

Stock Rising (offense): Jason Avant

Riley Cooper got the start in place of the injured Jackson, but it was Avant who shined with Jackson down, recording four catches on four targets and picking up 79 yards. He's only had six better games his entire career from a yardage standpoint.


Stock Rising (defense): Brandon Graham

We already discussed Graham's big game against Dallas right tackle Doug Free, so I'll also give a shoutout to Trent Cole for a solid performance in his first game sans Jim Washburn. At least this team is strapped in at defensive end for several years to come.


Stock Dropping (offense): King Dunlap 

Not sure it's possible for the left tackle's stock to drop any further, but he gave up the only sack Philly allowed against Dallas and was responsible for 30 percent of the pressure Foles faced (per PFF). It was a decent day for the offense, but not for Dunlap.


Stock Dropping (defense): DeMeco Ryans

Honestly, you could go with anyone in the second or third level of the D, but everyone's aware of how bad DRC, Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen are right now. Ryans had his worst performance of the season by far Sunday, according to PFF.


View last week's report here